Reader Comments re: Olympic Plaza needs a mega makeover?
BB writes: "You have touched a soft spot for me with Olympic Plaza. Although I think Parks has done a stellar job at dressing up what is there (putting lipstick on a pig ? – oops was that my outside voice) I agree it’s time for a makeover – the Olympics ended 25 years ago and the site needs to be repurposed – I was so excited about the potential for German Christmas market but sad it did not get legs. The Olympic Plaza is very much under utilized and filled with potential as a gathering place. I have and continue to travel extensively and always comment on how every major city I visit the first thing you do is head for the centre city where all the history and action/interest is. Every day | see and often engage with visitors in our DT who seem to be looking for something. Mayor Bronconnier started things going by putting police an bylaw into the core to clean it up as well as Parks and Roads resources. Next we need to make it an exciting place to be especially evenings and weekends."
Derek Besant on his Olympic Plaza SONGLINES project:
The concept was to design several gestures that would somehow be in proximity to one another around and in visual distance to Olympic Plaza. Each site required negotiations with the building owners, and requirements to attach mount systems to the exteriors of their faces.
I titled them: SONGLINES, based upon research into how Indigenous myth and story-telling was preserved, as part of my job in the early to mid 1970's as Exhibition Designer for the (then new) Glenbow Museum construction downtown.
At the time, I was investigating finer optic technology, and the challenge was to create drawn gestures that were NOT interpreted as advertising or logos, but would simply be drawn line forms. The subjective aspect was that the linear forms would "talk" top one another by shifting colour ranges, as a rhythmic dialogue amongst them. There are five in operation on various sites:
- Rocky Mountain Plaza,
- Teatro Restaurant,
- The Glenbow Museum,
- Epcore Centre for Performing Arts,
- City Hall
All were installed successfully, and a sixth was planned out for the West corner of the Performing Arts building near street level; but never went ahead. Each drawing was finally selected from pages and pages fill of gesture drawings as exercises…
The project came about quickly, and I was approached by a committee from Epcore Centre to come up with a plan for the art installation. I had only a three weeks to research and prepare the concept and deliver a critical path plan.
Originally, I wanted to do something like I had seen in Shanghai China, with laser light projections atop several buildings into the sky; but with the density surrounding downtown, and all that glass… the reflection factor was too difficult to control, so I went the finer optic route.
This proved cost effective and climate-controlled, and as long as the various building owners would change the bulbs whenever they burned out, the dialogue between SONGLINES would indeed 'speak' to one another as architectural articulations of line, motion and gesture.
Derek Besant: More Thoughts On Olympic Plaza and what it could/should be.
I have thought for a long time that Olympic Plaza needs the connective big bang 'WOW' factor to bring it up to being a focal destination and not the open space between Mall and City Hall. My SONGLINES was a flicker to try to awaken some response mechanisms between the facades within a limited budget and less time. It did allow me to dream on what 'could' happen there though, especially after visits on my projects to Shanghai, China.
I understand our climate gives the space some limits… or are they opportunities? Hmmm?
When I am downtown by the Congress Bridge in Austin Texas, or on Trafalgar Square in London, or in the long cool shadows of bank buildings strung along Bay Street in Toronto, or crossing the Alexander III Bridge in Paris, or the central plaza with four museums opposite one another in the Medieval city of Györ, in Hungary beside the Danube; I know where I am, and the perception of place resonates within me and I long for those identifications of what those urban centres hold for me to explore and reveal, or stay hidden beneath them.
City Hall here is a landmark building. But what does it talk to out there, really? Itself… It needs an opposite, a mirror, a debate, a love affair, a shot in the arm, and an arrival into another reality
Blog: Everyday Tourist
For some reason or reasons Olympic Plaza has never really captured the
public’s imagination as an attractive place to meet and hang out like other
civic plazas – Portland’s Pioneer Square or Union Square in San Francisco to
name just two. It should be an important
tourist attraction for Calgary, a “top of mind” place for Calgarians to proudly
show visiting family and friends.
Quoting Wikipedia, “Today, this (Union Square)
one-block plaza and surrounding area is one of the largest collections of
department stores, upscale boutiques, gift shops, art galleries and beauty
salons in the United States, making Union Square a major tourist destination, a
vital, cosmopolitan gathering place in downtown San Francisco, and one of the
world's premier shopping districts. Grand hotels and small inns, as well as
repertory, off-Broadway and single-act theaters also contribute to the area's
dynamic, 24-hour character.” That is what our Olympic Plaza should be.